About Jim Bamboulis
Jim Bamboulis has held several posts over the past 12 years, including National Sportscaster, Food Host and Writer, Talk Show Host, Olympic Researcher and Travel Film-maker.
Born and raised in Toronto, Jim learned early on that the combination of travel and food meant ultimate living. Combining his insatiable creative spirit and desire to document his travels, Jim took his unshakable travel bug and set off to explore. Add the fact that Jim also grew up in a Greek household and he learned that not only does Mom always make the best meals, but as importantly learned the importance of understanding and appreciating the countless beautiful cultures and the integral role food plays in every corner of the World.
In August 2009, Jim founded Travel Mammal, a site that brings together his travels and experiences (both good and terrifying) with the hope that others are inspired to share their own. We are all storytellers, especially when it comes to travel and food. He urges everyone to be inspired, explore and love the world and the people that share it with us. Or in other words, Live to Travel and travel to live!
Latest Posts by Jim Bamboulis
World wonders. Niagara Falls is one, yet to a person from Toronto, Niagara Falls is like the Grand Canyon is to someone living in Flagstaff. When you grow up so close to one of the worlds most beautiful natural wonders, you see it often but seeing it so many times makes you take it for granted.
It’s a shame because much like the Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls really never gets old. And for me, they’re more special as I have gotten older. I appreciate them more, love them more, stand there and look at them longer…even the American Falls.
I took a trip down to Niagara recently typically in late December, this part of the world is supposed to be snow covered and freezing ass cold. The Falls, icy, sparkly, pristine winter beauties. But these days, the temps are in the 50’s (10-15 degrees Celsius), there’s no snow on the ground and the Falls are flowing freely.
I got to Niagara at sunset, my favourite time of the day to see them and stayed into the evening. Enjoy!
You know it’s the holidays when people start taking pictures of their baking and posting them online. And for some reason, their Christmas trees too. Could never figure that one out, but that’s another story.
Can’t bake? Don’t want to? Here’s a list of Greek bakeries in Toronto that I think are worth your time, money and all the parking headaches.
The upside to this place is that you get pretty much everything you need under one roof. Groceries, pastries, the selection here is solid with plenty of fresh to choose from. And they provide what you need for children’s parties, wedding cakes, special occasion stuff, name it.
The downside is that because it’s so busy you often get treated like a number, customer service is iffy. On one occasion, ignored completely after raising a concern about a pastry sold. Here’s the thing. This place used to be cool. Like a band that plays small clubs and bars, lives and thrives for the music it writes and sings, gets paid in alcohol and comes back to play whenever they get invited.
Ya, that band. The band that’s all about the music.
But when that band gets ‘discovered’, plays sold out shows to self-entitled mainstreamers and forgets a bit about the quality of their music, they become all about the money. That’s Serano to me.
A one-time small guy who made really great stuff, turned into a big guy on the block who sells more things but compromised a bit on customer service and a bit on quality. Don’t get me wrong, the pastries are good and I understand that when business is good, you grow. But with growth comes greater responsibility. I mentioned a legit concern…buddy’s tooth got chipped and dislodged after biting down on what should have been a soft pastry. Manager wouldn’t hear of it. Bite careful my friends.
Where is it?
830 Pape Avenue, few blocks north of Danforth Ave.
Subway: Pape Station
Want attitude with that pastry? Hit up Athena. I don’t care much for the attitude, but because I understand the attitude, it doesn’t concern me. It’s old school. It’s the can’t-be-bothered-but-we-really-love-having-your-business attitude. The ‘why-aren’t-you-having-babies-yet-don’t-you-know-you’re-old’ attitude here. It’s funny if you get it. If you don’t, then you’ll be offended.
I like this place because it’s smaller, and it’s more intimate. There are plates and vases depicting mythical Greece scattered throughout the display window for sale, Greek and Mediterranean products to buy inside as well as several different types of pastry. It’s all good. You can get on a 1st-name basis with the Owners here and have a bit of conversation to go along with the whole buying experience. Fresh stuff, well priced and on the Greek strip.
Where is it?
598 Danforth Avenue, just west of Pape Avenue
Nearest subway station: Pape Station
I like Elite because they don’t buy into the whole Greek Town politics. They’re outside of it. Way outside of it. And because of that, you get better, more personable service. These guys can be bothered because they don’t seem to take things for granted. And because they’re in the east end, you don’t have to drive to Greek Town to get what you need. It’s a deli, it’s a bakery with pastries and cakes, it’s a grocery store and it’s a pleasant experience for a good price. Enough said.
Where is it?
1961 Kennedy Road in Scarborough
Nearest subway station: Ellesmere Station
I feel the same about this place as I do about Elite. It’s the type of place that you can at least have a conversation with the Owner and find out more about the quality of the product you’re buying. It’s not an in-and-out kind of thing. Family owned, the place has been in business for 40 years, making everything from pastries to homemade tzatziki and selling imported goods, various spreads, olives and feta cheese as well as ceramics.
Where is it?
811 St. Clair Avenue West
Nearest Subway station: St. Clair West station – get on the streetcar and go west a few blocks. It will be on the south side.
Deli. Bakery. Cafe. Another family owned business, these guys are pretty centrally located, keep things efficient and have plenty of everything you could need made fresh, competitively priced and ready to go. Yes, you’ll have some attitude here too but the fact that you can do some shopping, get a pastry and a coffee and enjoy them in their in-store cafe is a big bonus. In other words, why wait until you get home to eat, sit down now and indulge.
Where is it?
405 Donlands Avenue
Nearest Subway station: Donlands station (head north to O’Connor Drive)
Stany Greek Bakery
This place is the size of your living room, has the walking space of your pantry and looks like an organized basement. But you don’t need big size to create big quality.
It has solid mom and pop charm, doing something special, putting a little more heart into their product and delivering products and services the traditional, mild-mannered Greek way. Quality of pastry is amazing, putting in splashes of ingredients that make it that much more delectable all while providing cute, hospitable and sincere service at great prices. Overall, a great experience.
Where is it?
1015 Pape Avenue
Nearest Subway station: Pape station
Wondering what to get when you’re at any of these bakeries? That’s part of the fun. There are so many options and so many tastes, it’s really up to you and what you feel like eating. Just be aware that many Greek pastries have nuts in them so always ask before you consume.
Did I miss one? Got better suggestions? Hit me up and tell me what you think. Don’t be shy. Share!
I look up at the clear, blue, eternal sky. It joins hands with two endless, royal blue Seas.
I close my eyes and feel a surreal warmth come over me; inhale intoxicating scents of chamomile and mint coming from the mountains. Subtle waves crash into the beaches from top to bottom, feeding the land with history, passion and millions of tales. I can feel 4000 years of history emanating around me and penetrating my core.
I’m speechless, swept up, emotional. The island is my soul-mate. I have returned. I kiss the tarmac. My passport may say “Canadian” but my heart and soul says Rhodian — and here I am, where all things lead to Rhodes Greece. I have arrived.
First time visitors to Rodos always start planning their next visit minutes after landing. In fact, Rodos captivates everyone immediately thanks to its countless beaches, rich history, passionate people and of course quality food. This island has something for everyone and that’s the true appeal.
For me, it’s strikes a personal chord. My mother is from Rodos and seeing that I’m closest with her, I consider myself to be almost one with this place. It grips me in every way. Powerful emotions rush through every time I touch down here and every time I even think about it. I can’t explain it, really.
Toronto-born, Greek-raised, Rodos-inspired.
I’m not going to go into the entire history, myths and of course natural beauty that dominates this island paradise. I’m also not going to talk about important roles it has played throughout time. You can all look that up if you like and believe me, it’s worth taking a look.
Rodos has something for everyone and taking a drive around the entire island is an experience that will make you feel as if you’re sitting next to the Creator. The Valley of the Butterflies is magical as is the contrast between Old City charm and New City modernity. The UN has deemed Rodos to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site. And what about Cleopatra’s extreme love for Rodos. What did she do to replicate it in Egypt? A factoid worth knowing.
What I really wanted to share with you was my deep, unexplainable connection to one of this planets’ most beautiful places. We all have one place that completely mystifies us with the power it holds over us. It’s created by a special event, a special person. It’s a spark that lasts forever. In my case, it’s a blood line.
It appears that I have a Rodos gene. No complaints.
Photo credit: Top photo only: Britannica. All others I took myself.
Ah yes November. Not officially winter yet but it’s starting to feel like it with every passing day. And if you live in many parts of the US and Canada these days, the Polar Apocalypse as I like to call it (Polar Vortex sounds too…weak), you may think it’s the middle of January already.
The good news is, it’s not mid-January. The bad news is…well see previous paragraph. The colors are still vivid but it’s only a matter of time in Toronto before we’ll get hit with ice and snow on a regular basis.
Before the cold made its way to Toronto, we were lucky enough to have one last day of beautiful weather. And by beautiful I mean 17C (or about 63 degrees Fahrenheit), sunny skies and a lovely, comfortable breeze. Seems like ages ago.
I did what any warm weather loving Torontonian would do on a day like that. I went outside. I headed to the Toronto Islands.
Great in the summer but as I found out, many parts of the Islands are just stunning and naturally beautiful in Autumn. Take a look at the pictures below to give you a better idea of what I mean. Information about the islands and how to get there are at the bottom.
By: Jennifer Renaud I was in Jamaica the first time that I ever went ziplining. I’d been sent there on video assignment to shoot bikini models on the beach (yes I know – my job sucks), which somehow detoured into sailing through the canopy with fifty thousand dollars worth of camera gear strapped to my […]
I have always been curious and enamoured with the American West. The mystical southwest in particular. The first time there was an awesome experience. To see and breathe it, imagine what it looked like 200, 100 and even 50 years earlier. It is a great opportunity to reflect and enjoy the rugged, graceful scenery. It was now time to go to the Grand Canyon, or at well, see it at least….from the air.
It took us 4 hours to reach the Grand Canyon. Awe-struck by the sheer beauty and size. Now from the air. By helicopter.
A road trip is one thing but seeing it from above is something else.
There are several tour companies that offer trips by helicopter from Vegas to the GC. Do your research and pick the itinerary that is right for you.
The right one for us?
We wanted to not only fly over the Hoover Dam, Lake Mead and Grand Canyon….but we wanted to descend into the Grand Canyon as well. And that’s what we did….with a few added memorable moments thrown in.
Just thrilling. Getting a bird’s eye view of one of the worlds most stunning natural wonders. Landing 4000 feet below the rim and being surrounded by the Canyon itself, overlooking the Colorado River, to be embraced by millions of years of natural history and evolution.
After having the chance to walk around and take it in, it was time for a small lunch that included champagne.
In a matter of 4 1/2 hours, we got picked up at our hotel, shuttled to the airport, got our helicopter training, boarded, flew over the Hoover Dam and Lake Mead en route to the Grand Canyon, had our champagne lunch at the base and flew back to Vegas.
Left me speechless again.
Is the Grand Canyon on your list of must-experience? Have questions about itineraries or tips on how to see the Grand Canyon in a different way? Share the love and happy travels!Tips:
*These itineraries get booked up fast. If you’re thinking about doing this, try to book as far in advance before your trip as possible.
*This trip is one of the more pricier options. You’re looking at anywhere between $300-$500 per person depending on season.
*If you haven’t been in a helicopter before, bring gravol just in case.
Nuit Blanche is an annual art festival that takes place in various cities around the world, including Toronto. It starts at sunset and finishes up at sunrise. Over one million people flood the streets and take in the various exhibits scattered throughout the downtown. This is what it looked like on Queen Street West this year.
Over the years, the festival itself has been great and other years, boring. Last year, dry. This year, fun and inspiring. People enjoyed themselves and the energy was great.One of the exhibits that really made it for me was the Global Rainbow.
Created by Yvette Mattern, it consists of a ‘high specification laser light projection beaming in parallel horizontal lines creating a natural perspective horizon arc simulating a natural rainbow arc with a trajectory of up to 60 km’.
It wasn’t projecting that far but it can be seen from virtually any point in downtown Toronto. Three people supervise the installation from the top of a parking lot in Kensington Market, about 2km NNW of the CN Tower and watch as curious onlookers set up tripods and selfies with what is considered to be a symbol of peace and hope.
It’s a great display because it’s not every day that streaming lasers are beamed across two points in the Toronto skyline. And the symbolism rocks.
Luckily, this exhibit continued long after the festival ended. Great news for those of us who wanted a second look and a chance to get some good shots without the crowds getting in the way.
Got a favourite Nuit Blanche exhibit? Share the love.
Words like ‘overrated’, ‘hyped up’ and ‘tourist trap’ have all been used to describe the Lagoon itself and the experience you get.
It’s true that visiting and dipping into the sometimes scolding hot thermal pool will cost you a tad more than in previous years and yes it’s man-made after all. And how awesome is it to see loads of tour buses arriving throughout the day with fully dressed wannabe photographers standing around, taking pictures while you’ve got your calm on, body soaking, breathing in the crisp Iceland air?
Not so much, I understand.
The Blue Lagoon is one of those experiences that if you don’t do it, you’ll be questioned and judged by those who did do it and yada yada yada. Sure, it can get annoying to see loads of tourists arriving but everyone is generally pretty civil and there to have a great time. Prices have gone up everywhere and yes including at the Blue Lagoon but that shouldn’t stop you either.
Truth is, the Blue Lagoon is a must-do if you’re a first timer. And to make it more enticing for you, it’s conveniently and strategically situated between the airport and downtown Reykjavik.
You can rent a car and hit the road but if renting isn’t for you, then be aware that buses are the only way to get anywhere. The good news is that the buses make it easy for you to get to and from any major site, including between KEF and Reykjavik with an optional stopover at the Lagoon.
Although many people usually hit the Blue Lagoon on their way to the airport, at the end of their vacation, I decided to visit as soon as I landed. After all, this was a dream of mine for several years and to put it off was a crazy thought.
As for the experience itself?
Fantastic. Loved it!
It was an incredible feeling and lived up to my expectations. I saw pics of this place years ago, dreaming of the day when I would be lounging in the water, on the western edge of the island country, eastern edge of the North American tectonic plate, in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean, having a drink in the pool (there’s a swim up bar available) and looking around taking in the scenery and terrain of what could pass as the surface of the moon itself.
But would I do it again? Probably not.
Iceland is loaded with thermal pools that are frequented by locals both in Reykjavik and outdoors throughout the rest of the country that are just as phenomenal. At those pools, I imagine it’s more of a cultural experience than a tourist, ‘must-do’ experience. Next time, I will explore those and build on experiencing a more local flavour, more of what this spectacular country has to offer.
But for my first time in Iceland, this was a great time and one that you should consider doing for yourself.
Have you been to the Blue Lagoon? Got tips?